The World Refugee Day was marked on Saturday, June 20, but one ex refugee Suud Olat says there is nothing to celebrate until governments across the globe work to improve the status of those who seek refuge.
The 29-year-old Olat who moved to the United States from the Daadab camp in Kenya eight years ago and is now vying for the city leadership in Minnesota says history will judge the world harshly if the plight of millions of refugees is not addressed.
“This is yet another year we are marking the World Refugee Day, but is there anything to celebrate? No,” said Olat who for 20 years lived in the squalid conditions of the world largest refugee camp, Daadab.
“Why should we celebrate when refugees are starving in camps across Africa, others have no proper housing or sanitation while young boys and girls cannot access basic and quality education?” Olat posed in an interview with Kenya’s TV47 on Saturday evening.
“Refugees should not be treated as second or third class human beings. Their only mistake is to flee from war and seek security and opportunities in foreign lands,” he stated.
“From the travel bans issued on refugees by some governments like the USA to the stigma associated with being a refugee, I think there is nothing to celebrate,” he said.
“Add this to the current Coronavirus pandemic and think about the hundreds of thousands of refugees locked up in camps across Africa and you will understand the sorry state of refugees. So there is nothing to celebrate.”
Olat said refugees should be given free movement in countries they seek asylum and should be accorded equal opportunities to seek for employment, health, education and economic empowerment.
“For us to celebrate this world refugee day, we want to hear about inspiring stories of refugees who got a chance to go to school and touched the lives of people through leadership in various fields.
We want to see young refugees grow to become doctors, engineers, pilots….but if we confine them to refugee camps with food rations, poor sanitation, poor housing and no education, we are breeding problems.”
He challenged the United Nations, the African Union and world governments to come up with tangible solutions that will address the refugee crisis, especially in Africa.
“If we can improve the status of refugees, we will have all the reasons to celebrate with them the World Refugee Day,” he stated.
On August 11, he will be vying for election in Minnesota where he wants to represent Ward 6.
“I want to bring change to the lives especially of the African immigrant community in Minneapolis and Minnesota where there is a huge African presence.”
“Most of us here are refugees and while we may be lucky to be in the United States, we are also facing challenges in inequalities in access to public health, education and security.”
“We have to realize that a refugee whether in Africa or the United States deserves to be given equal opportunity.”
The US government under Donald Trump has adopted a new policy that bars refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Somalia into the country.
“No refugees will be settled in any city or state without the express consent” of state and local governments,” Trump said last year.
Olat says this is part of what he terms as discrimination of refugees which makes the world refugee day nothing to celebrate about.
BY ODINDO AYIEKO